Assassin’s Creed Unity is set to bring players right into the heart of rebellion. The upcoming title in the free-running, stealth-killing series is set during the French Revolution, as shown in this recent cinematic story trailer. However, since more details on the title were revealed at E3, Ubisoft has had discontent of its own to deal with.
Some savvy gamers noticed that there was no female character option for the lauded four-player co-op mode, and asked questions of Ubisoft as to why they had taken this step. After all, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation boasted a female protagonist, and female character models have been choices in previous multiplayer components of the series. Ubisoft’s response — that female characters would have drained too many resources — was met with a raised eyebrow, and some tongue-in-cheek criticism from the makers of Sunset Overdrive.
It turns out that it’s not just Insomniac Games that disagrees with Ubisoft’s decision. Ashley Johnson, the voice actress who played Ellie in The Last of Us, spoke on the matter in an interview with VideoGamer. Johnson, who won a BAFTA for her performance as Ellie, was critical of Ubisoft, and of the way women are portrayed in video games in general.
Johnson called for a better standard of female character, asking that developers would consider “stronger females that are not just the damsel in distress, the love interest or oversexualised.” She called on Assassin’s Creed Unity as a great example on what not to do. “Give me a f**king break! It’s 2014!” Said Johnson, before asking “how many video games do you have to make to realise maybe have an option to have a female be in there?”
The actress, who is also known for her vocal talents in animated shows such as Ben 10, Teen Titans and Recess, also stated that it’s not only women who should be better represented in games. She also asked for more care to be given to male characters, and for developers to “have a good story” and “have real characters.”
The Last of Us co-star Troy Baker also spoke on the issue. Baker, who played Joel in last year’s award-winning PS3 title, warned developers about turning their backs on “such a large demographic” as women. “There’s a large portion of gamers that are women that feel marginalised,” said Baker. He explained that given the importance on immersive strength in modern games, there should be more scope for female players. “That’s where games are going,” he said. “It’s a very relevant way for them to immerse themselves in the story.”
Baker was also quick to condemn the use of female characters for the sake of it. “What I don’t want to see happen is have the obligatory female character in there because that’s what marketing says we need to have,” said Baker. “I think that’s almost even more disrespectful than not having women in the game.”
Ubisoft has promised more diversity in their future games, at least according to CEO Yves Guillemot. Guillemot wants more time spent on “the worlds and characters,” wishing to “extend more diversity.” If true, it will make a nice change from the usual AAA hero of the Brown-Haired White Guy. Another Ubi fall release, Far Cry 4, features female characters but none of them playable.
In the meantime, those looking forward to hearing Johnson’s award-winning performance again will have their chance soon. The Last of Us Remastered will release exclusively on PS4 on July 29.